There’s this urban legend in my town—a tiny, coastal town of 1,700.
It originated about ten years ago and no one know how or why, seeing as it’s so unbelievable and odd that no one would realistically believe it. But at the same time, it’s unsettling and puts a deep heaviness in your gut—like some part of you thinks, maybe this could be true. But the rational side of you always wins. It’s the kind of story twelve-year-olds tell in their living rooms at slumber parties, and everyone nervously laughs at the conclusion.
But I’m writing this to tell you it’s true.
I first heard the story when I was in seventh grade at an old friend’s birthday party. Her cool older sister had come in for the ghost stories and told us the one that stemmed from our hometown:
There’s this house that everyone knows about—not because the house itself is scary, but the people inside. It’s inhabited by this older couple, a man and a woman maybe in their sixties. They are rarely seen outside of that neighborhood, a neighborhood everyone knows and frequently goes through, seeing as it’s in the middle of town. The couple will take a walk around the neighborhood every three nights at 8:00 PM on the dot. They exit their house and stroll around the neighborhood. They drive their expensive white SUV around, but interestingly enough no one ever sees them at the grocery store or anywhere else. They dress like people in their 60s do. They walk normally. But everyone, even dogs, avoids them. Like there’s some primal instinct to not go near those people. And if you’re in their direct line of sight or pay too much attention to them, it’s like they lock their eyes directly underneath your skin. It’s not the glare of a human being, is what she said.
And, they have these dogs at their house. There have to be at least 20 by the sound of their barking. Some of our parents complain sometimes, saying something about breeders. But we never see these dogs. The couple has this big fenced yard that you can see into, but you never see any dogs. You only hear them. Barking, all the time, all of them or only a few, always. I swear, if someone passes too close either walking or biking, they stop. That is the only time they really, truly stop barking. Do normal dogs do that? It’s the weirdest, most unnatural thing.
But the story really started in the summer of 2008. A teenager named Ethan Ellery who worked at the convenience store went missing. It was one of the biggest things ever to happen in this town. Everyone was hyper-vigilant, keeping extra track of their kids and constantly looking for updates. I was eight then, and I remember my mom and some of her friends speaking in hushed voices whenever they could about poor Ethan. Eventually the cops decided that he had probably run away, seeing as his home life wasn’t the best (from what I heard at least). They closed the case and never found him.
But you know what I remember from that time? For two weeks after Ethan went missing, those dogs were quiet. They didn’t bark for two weeks. I remember we would stand at the end of the street, about ten houses down where you could usually hear the incessant barking, and walk down to where we were in front of that house. Not one bark. Some adults made excuses whenever the kids brought it up. “They’re on vacation.” Or “Maybe they’re just tired.” Or “I’m just glad for some peace and quiet.” They never questioned it.
The couple walked in their eerie way every three days. They never answered the door. They never said hello or did anything but throw that unsettling glare at whoever was around.
It happened again in 2010, this time in the fall. Dana Perez-Dawson went missing. She was 21, from a poorer part of town, and worked at a dentist’s office. With no apparent connection to Ethan, they treated her case differently and assumed she left the town without warning, too. Anyone who knew Dana knew she wanted to skip town at the first chance. But for those two weeks, those dogs were quiet. Those dogs didn’t make one peep. Do you not think that was super sketchy? What was with those people? They just…did their creepo thing.
It happened again and again. 2014, Xian Hoover, teenage lacrosse player. 2015, Lizzie Krengen, 25-year-old office employee. No connections, different races, different ages, different hobbies, different parts of town.
And 2017. Hannah Morrigan. A friend of mine.
See, here’s the problem. Here’s where it gets really tricky. My friends and I all believed something is wrong with those people. Something is wrong with those dogs. And three nights ago, six days after Hannah went missing, three nights of absolute buzzing, sinister silence—my friends Miles and Jenny decided they were going to confront those creeps.
They disappeared, too.
Oh, God. I can’t believe this. I can’t believe this. I can’t believe I did this.
I came and immediately sat down to write this after, because I know no one else will believe me and I didn’t know what else to do.
Oh, God. Okay.
Around 5:00 PM today, I was with three of my friends: Jenny, Miles, and Hannah’s sister Lillian. Lillian was upset, understandably. We were sitting in the Morrigans’ basement and venting our frustration. Eventually it clicked for all of us—those people in the Barking House—they were behind this. They had to be. The dogs going quiet only after all those people disappeared. God, that could not be a coincidence, right? So we hatched a plan. Jenny and Miles would go and talk to them.
Jenny said, “If those people really had anything to do with Hannah and the cops aren’t investigating, I think we have the right to go and see if they know what happened to our friends.”
Everyone was in agreement, including me. Damn it, I never should have agreed.
At 5:08, Miles and Jenny walked the two blocks down to the Barking House. They continuously texted Lillian and I updates, letting us know where they were. It was gut-wrenching, not knowing what was happening. And I was a wuss and wouldn’t go with them. I had to wait at the Morrigans’ house for texts from my friends. Twenty-five minutes passed, and it felt like days. Miles and Jenny finally, finally burst through the door, wide-eyed and sweaty.
While we were waiting, we were joined by a few more friends, all gathered in the basement. Jenny and Miles finally caught their breaths and pulled out one of their phones. They pulled up a video, and the seven friends that were now here crowded around to watch (me, Lillian, Miles, Jenny, Abbey, Tyson, and Gabe).
At first it was shaky, like the person holding the phone was walking quickly and hiding the phone. A porch cleared up on the screen—the Barking House’s porch. Miles stepped up and knocked hard on the door, and a few heartbeats later, it opened a crack. There was a screen door in front of the wood door—and holy crap, it was so much darker than a regular door (a small detail, but too odd). You could see a vague shape of the person inside, and as Miles explained why they were there, the inhabitant opened the door more. Dark and obscured, but wrong.
The air in the room tightened—my friends felt it, too. They saw it, too. That could not be a person; it looked a lot like a person, but wrong, you know? It was the woman: average height, a little heavy, spray-tanned (there was lighter skin around her eyes than the rest of her face—sketchy, right?) but she just…I don’t even know how to explain it. She just looked wrong. Her skin looked too tight but too loose at the same time—almost like the skin wasn’t meant for her, you know? Her hair was a dead, dull sheen and something about her posture was just unnatural. It didn’t seem real. She almost looked like a puppet or a wax figure. Not a human being, but something that could pass for one.
But before the camera could get a really good look—or my friends could get any real answers—the woman backed into the shadows, not even shutting the door. How weird is that?! God, I don’t understand how no one picked up on this!
They put the camera away and we all looked at each other—tension tangible in the air and fear in all of our eyes.
I wish we had told our parents. I wish we had told the police. I wish we had done something other than just go home and stew in our unsettling gut feelings. We were so, so stupid. And I never should have gone back to that house.
At 9:30ish, our group chat started to light up—it had been going for a while, with Hannah and all. But this was different. Lillian couldn’t get ahold of Jenny or Miles. We started to get scared. Tyson texted their moms. Their moms thought they were with us. So we decided to do something, like the stupid, idiot teenagers we are. Gabe and I were closest, so we got on our bikes and rode past their houses. Their room windows were open, and lights—I want to say half out. I think it was just their lamps, like the ceiling lights went out or something. It gave me a queasy feeling, worse than before. So, like a stupid, stupid idiot, I told Gabe to go home. And I went past the Barking House. By myself.
It was quiet. It was so, so quiet. The white, expensive SUV was gone. I didn’t think. I dropped my bike at the front of the porch, and I freaking went inside.
God, I was so, so stupid.
It was so dark inside. And the air, I swear it buzzed. And the smell. About three feet into the door, the smell hit me. It was so thick and dead. I can’t—I don’t want to describe it—it was like nothing I have ever smelled and it’s stuck in my senses forever.
I pulled out my phone and flipped the flashlight on—and oh, God. They weren’t dogs. They were never dogs. They were the size of dogs, but they weren’t dogs. They had thick scales and weird, prickly hairs. They had flat faces and just looking at them made me feel—in my bones—that I was not ever supposed to be here. There were dozens of them. Dozens. All scrambling around like they didn’t like the light. And they buzzed. They didn’t make any noise, they just vibrated.
And on the floor. I think this is why they were quiet for a while. I think they were eating. Carcasses, everywhere. Squirrels, rats, possums, cats, a sheep. And—oh, God. Skeletons. Human skeletons. And not just skeletons.
I pulled my eyes up as fast I could and locked onto a freaking mirror. But not the mirror—the reflection. It was the man. He was looking at me. He was looking at me and I swear on every bone in my body those eyes were not human.
Just after I realized. I booked the hell out of that house. I just ran. I pulled my bike up and flew home. I know what happened to my friends. I know. I know what happened to those people. I know that those people are not people. I just—I just had to get home. I had to get away. I had to get home.
I made it home sweating and terrified and covered with that stench.
I showered that smell off. Now I’m writing this, at 10:57 PM. I am telling you the legend of the Barking House is true. Ethen Ellery, Dana Perez-Dawson, Xian Hoover, Lizzie Krengen, Hannah Morrigan, Miles Randolph, and Jenny Reno-Hardt. This is what happened to them. Please, please believe me.
Because I might be next.